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THE DATING GAME: Romance of ages - Cougars and Jacks

How many times have you seen this couple -- the older guy parading around with a younger woman?

Stroll downtown in any major city on any weekend and you are bound to see them as often as you see a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin behind a bar.

But one thing you don't find a lot down here is the reverse -- older women with younger guys.

Cougars with Jacks.

What's a Cougar? Think Samantha from "Sex and the City" -- a woman who dates men at least eight years their junior. What's a Jack (short for Jackrabbit)? Think the young gardener from "Desperate Housewives" who was ready to marry Gabrielle.

It's a trend that seems to be growing (check out urbancougar.com). And according to the folks at Mate1.com, it's the guys that are seeking out the older women.

Their data shows that 65 percent of the men on their site would date women five years older or more.

''My theory is as younger people become more and more engrossed in the hook-up culture, men are realizing it's not as great a thing as it was years ago,'' said Liz Wasserman, who co-founded Mate1 with her father. "The younger generation of men are starting to appreciate the older, more mature woman who is stable in her relationships and sexuality."

Sounded reasonable, but I wanted to find out why these men prefer older women.

Chris, a 27-year-old from Illinois, has dated a woman 18 years his senior and says there are no games when it comes to older women. ''You learn new things and the benefits are great,'' he wrote me back, without telling me what the ''benefits'' were, but I can imagine they don't deal with rent money.

Quencey, 34, from Atlanta, who is dating a 42-year-old woman, also echoed the no games sentiment.

''This is a huge benefit in that the unnecessary games, insecurities, lies and emotional roller-coaster ride is nonexistent,'' he wrote. (Think someone got burned before?)

"They have a lot more perspective and usually enjoy sharing the life lessons they've learned."

Several other Jacks said they usually meet Cougars in social networking events or at happy hours, and that they send out signals but aren't aggressive about the pursuit.

''They wait for me to take the bait and act on it,'' one Jack wrote.

''We met online. I told some stories, made her laugh, told her she was hot and the rest is history,'' Dan, 27, from Chicago wrote. "An older woman has seen it all compared to a 20-something."

He also mentioned that older women are more experienced sexually, which fits the profiles we all learned in sex-ed that men hit their sexual peak in their 20s and women in their 30s.

Wasserman credits the media with the acceptance of this pairing with branding the 40s as the new 30s (or the 30s as the new 20s), and reporting on how a woman can look sexy at any age. (Did anyone see Helen Mirren at the Oscars? Smokin' for 61!)

Cougars don't need to date by the old-fashioned standards, so apparently, neither do the Jacks.

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